Into the Groove

It’s time to focus on marketing again

When the pandemic threw supply and demand out of whack, many retailers scaled back their marketing to focus on getting products to customers. 

“With an overflowing sales funnel and constricted product availability, it just made sense,” says Breanne Carlson, marketing manager at Bullfrog Spas in Harriman, Utah. “Essentially, we saw many retailers significantly slow down their advertising efforts or stop altogether to manage the situation at hand.”

Carlson explains that as a manufacturer, the company saw retailers become more reactionary with marketing approaches. “Consumers were coming to the retailers with a shifted mindset,” Carlson recalls. “Instead of asking the typical product questions, it was more of a question of ‘Is it available?’ or ‘When can it be delivered?’ ”  

Myles Berger, marketing manager for Hot Tub Central in Toms River, New Jersey, says the company immediately noticed a shift in customer behavior after the pandemic started. 

“We were one of the only dealers in our area that ordered more hot tubs to anticipate the rush, so we changed and adapted real quick,” Berger says. 

With slowdowns in hot tub sales on the horizon, retailers can prepare accordingly by reevaluating their marketing strategies.

“We are encouraging our dealer network to get back to the basics,” Carlson says. “Right now, we are riding the wave of increased awareness of our industry driving more consumers to begin thinking about getting a hot tub in their backyard.” According to Carlson, this is the perfect time for retailers to sit down, create a strategy and get “back into the groove” of advertising efforts that increase awareness, market share and results. 

“Instead of waiting for consumers to walk through the doors, we need to refocus on building the sales funnels, working leads and the lifetime value of our customers,” Carlson says. 

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Instead of waiting for consumers to walk through the doors, we need to refocus on building the sales funnels, working leads and the lifetime value of our customers.”

Breanne Carlson, Bullfrog Spas

Berger says that while they’re still seeing a huge demand for swim spas, he has noticed things are getting closer to normal. “For a little while we cut back on advertising,” he says. “There just was no need, but as things got back to normal, we’re back in full swing.” While their marketing strategy hasn’t changed much, Berger says he has noticed variations in the demographics of people looking for hot tubs since the pandemic. “For the first time in my life, I’m seeing more people my age,” says Berger, who at 31 years old has been working in the industry for more than 10 years.

 Hot Tub Central’s typical demographic is middle aged or older, with an annual income of $100,000 or more. “We have had a few people come in who earned their income from odd sources,” Berger says. “Anything from the cryptocurrency wiz to legal weed entrepreneurs.” He says that while the company has always served affluent customers in their 30s, it’s been interesting to see his own age demographic turn into more regular customers. 

According to Jake Boyles, vice president of sales and marketing at Crystal River Spas in Carbondale, Colorado, his company is in the midst of rebooting its marketing strategies, which Boyles says were previously geared toward growing its team and not selling hot tubs. “The pandemic made us stop all print and pull back our radio [advertisements] to only the local news sponsorship and move to target email toward active leads,” Boyles says.

 The company is in a small mountain market, and it has had success in the past with radio and newspaper advertisements. Boyles explains that while the company kept up with its social media content, it is considering digital ads in local online news outlets and geotargeting. “We haven’t decided on a strategy yet,” Boyles says. “We still have lots to learn.”

Carlson notes that it can be easy for retailers in times like these to look for new solutions to drive demand, but she reminds retailers that the most impact they can have is by going back to the basics. “We are encouraging our dealers to participate in as many of our dealer programs that make sense for their strategy,” she says. 

To capitalize on the increased awareness built throughout the pandemic, retailers can look for ways to get in front of the consumer again through events, promotions, sales training and showroom updates. “Once you start working on executing your strategy,” Carlson says, “continue to iterate your plan based on the results you are seeing.”